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What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

| Content Marketing Manager  
As Paradigm’s Content Marketing Manager, Allison utilizes her research and writing expertise, experience in working cross-collaboratively amongst teams, and drive to create compelling content around diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Some of the content in this article is adapted from the Paradigm Reach Harassment Prevention online course. 

When people think of workplace harassment, the first thing that often comes to mind is one its most obvious forms — quid pro quo.

Quid pro quo is a Latin term that means “this for that.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a person in a position of real or perceived power trades, or tries to trade, job benefits for sexual favors.

Quid pro quo harassment — along with a hostile work environments — are both forms of discrimination, and victims are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and by additional laws in some U.S. States.

What Are Examples of Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid pro quo harassment scenarios include:

  • Offering or granting better working conditions or opportunities in exchange for a sexual relationship.
  • Threatening adverse working conditions (like termination, demotion, shift alterations, or work-location changes) or denial of opportunities if a sexual relationship is refused.
  • Retaliating if an individual refuses to engage in sexual conduct.

Beyond Quid Pro Quo

While quid pro quo harassment might be what you see in movies or in national headlines, there are many other forms of workplace sexual harassment that create unsafe, non-inclusive, or actively hostile work environments. And many forms of unwanted sexual advances don’t hinge on sexual relationships, jokes, or innuendos.

It’s important to make sure that employees understand what is illegal, but only focusing on the most overt forms of harassment is an outdated and ineffective approach. Instead, organizations should seek to foster anti-harassment workplaces where not only unwelcome sexual advances but harassment of all degrees isn’t tolerated and people who experience or witness it are empowered to take action.

How to Create an Anti-Harassment Culture

To create an anti-harassment culture, organizations should:

  • Create and share clear, strict harassment policies for all employees.
  • Take a more modern approach to harassment prevention training. Sexual harassment training is required in many states and is recommended by the EEOC for every company in U.S. Unfortunately, too many trainings ONLY check the boxes that are legally required and are therefore ineffective or under-effective. Instead, companies should roll out trainings that actively foster anti-harassment workplaces, further inclusion, and meet legal requirements. For more on that approach, download our whitepaper or watch our webinar on demand.
  • Create safe, secure, and retaliation-free communication channels for sexual harassment claims that empower victims who might feel powerless in these complicated and confusing situations.

Preventing Sexual Harassment With Effective Training

Sexual harassment can happen to any person in any workplace — it’s critical for employees and their employers to understand when they’re being sexually harassed and how to handle it. If you need help fostering an anti-harassment workplace and fostering a more inclusive culture, our experts can help — you can learn more and sign up for free consultation here.

October 31, 2022

If you would like to learn more about our harassment prevention training, contact us today!